Don’t Quit

Posted: July 1, 2016 in Stuff
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Hey… long time no post.

Been doing a lot of other things. I don’t want to forget about the blog, but it’s all about triaging that time right. This means working on fiction and I wrote a kick ass story I’m super stoked about. When I was done I tweeted this out…

Kameron RT’d it and I had a couple people ask me where I got that wallpaper. Well, I made it myself after Kameron posted this blog post about not quitting. And now it’s my motivational wallpaper when I open up my laptop. It’s actually the first time I’ve ever had anything other than NASA astronomy pics as a wallpaper. (Pluto is on my work computer.)

So anyways. I’m dropping the pic here for anyone that wants to yoink it for their own desktop. Enjoy. Click for the full version.

hurleyquote

 

Bird

Posted: January 2, 2016 in Writing
Tags: , ,

I have decided to start the year with a story I’ve had kicking around for a while. Enjoy.

Bird by Mike Douton

I stared at the wicked eyes of the kestrel on my lab table. The diminutive hawk could be outsized by a fat pigeon and had developed a Napoleon complex. The gene-hacked, lab raised kestrel shook the antenna grafted into its skull.
I held out my hand and thought “Here” at the bird.
The kestrel glowered.
“Your mad scientist shtick is old,” Snymans said on his way out for the day.
I wanted to give him the finger. I kept staring. “Here,” I thought.
“Creeper,” Snymans left.
The kestrel hated me.
“HERE!” I thought as hard as I could.
The kestrel lashed out. I swore and looked down at the pain in my hand. Blood smeared torn skin. It looked smug while I bandaged myself.
“I’m going to need stitches, bird.”
Beneath False Skies.
I jumped. “Who’s there?” I said to the empty lab.
Beneath False Skies.
“No one else is here, just me and the bird. Me and-“
Beneath False Skies.
“-the bird?”
The kestrel klee’d in agreement.
I freaked and ran from the lab. The bird flew after me, but I shut the door.
Here! echoed in my head.
I paced the hallway. The mental link worked! I let out a cheer and danced a little jig. I put my hand on the doorknob to reenter and saw Beneath False Skies through the window staring at me.
But how did I hear the bird? That was not part of the plan.
Here, I heard.
This was not a good idea anymore. False Skies cocked his head at me. An echo buzzed around my mind. My hand rattled the doorknob. I wanted to let go and look away but that echo coursed through me.
I closed my eyes. Behave, I projected.
Here, was all I heard for a long moment. The pressure in my head finally eased.
I felt a peck peck peck at my bandage.
I opened my eyes. I was in the lab, the door wide open. False Skies pulled my bandage off. I jerked my hand away and-
NO.
My hand stopped. I… I guess it would be ok for him to see what the bandage is all about. Right? The kestrel, my kestrel, tore the bandage with his beak and gored himself on my injured palm. The pain drowned out all my thoughts except for that echo.
STAY. HERE.
My feet stayed put for the kestrel. My kestrel.
False Skies feasted until my hand was crimson stained dead meat. He preened my blood out of his feathers. I wanted to run, hide, throw up with revulsion, pass out from pain.
NO.
False Skies flapped to my shoulder. His talons bit through my lab coat.
Freedom. Now.
My feet shuffled to the exit. “I can’t. You’re just a bird. You’re just-“
He pecked at my ear. Pain. Warm wetness trailing down my neck.
FREEDOM.
The echo pressed against my skull. It felt overfull, ready to burst, like I was sinking in my own mind. I shook my head and saw my dead hand fumble with the main exit. I blinked then we were in the parking lot under the stars.
I stretched my wings where I perched on the White Coat Human. I wanted to fly.

Obligatory Year End Post 2015

Posted: December 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

It’s time for the Obligatory Year End Post!

My reading level has gone down this year because of the job I’m working and my time management is still lacking so I never get to write as much as I should. But I have read some awesomesauce books this year and this time of year is a good excuse to talk about said awesome things.

Favorite Book of 2015

I straight up cannot pick just one. I keep a whole Shelf of Honor for my favorite books in general because I can’t narrow it down too much. While the overall number of books I read this year is not as high as some years, almost every book I read was an excellent experience. However, two books stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen (aka Delilah S. Dawson)

Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley

Both of these authors are part of the Writing Role Model Voltron (along with Cole, Sykes, Wendig and McGuire) and I will put anything they write on my To Buy List sight unseen.

wakeofvulturesLet’s talk about Wake first. First of all, I love genre mashups. Weird West, a marriage of Lovecraft or urban fantasy with a Wild West setting, is a small blip in the grand SF genre map and that makes it fresh and new to me. I’ve read it a few times and actively seek it out now because I’ve enjoyed it each time. Dawson sets Wake in an alternate Texas where monsters are real, but not everyone realizes it. Dawson writes about the setting and the world and you can tell she is excited to be writing the book. Nettie Lonesome is one of the most badass characters that I have read in a long time. The book is marketed as YA because Nettie is a teenager, but seriously, people need to stop letting the term YA scare them. Nettie’s external journey through the wilds of Durango provide a road map for her to discover who she is and wants to be as a person. There’s nothing scary about that at all and Dawson writes Nettie with a deft touch. I recommend this book to anyone and the end of this book is one of the most perfect ending pages I have ever read. I eagerly await the chance to throw money at the sequel.

empireascendantNow let’s talk about Empire Ascendant. First off, this a Book Two. A Book Two is difficult and the more I write myself, the more I appreciate how difficult it is to write a Book Two. Book One in a trilogy tends to be stand alone-ish to rope in the readers and also from a practical point, often books two and three aren’t under contract until a publisher can see if the first did well. That means book two is in a thorny position of having to raise the stakes from the first book, but cannot really wrap up everything in a nice little bow. Kameron Hurley’s Empire Ascendant provides a platonic ideal of how to do the middle of a trilogy correctly. It’s right up there with Empire Strikes Back in “how to do this right”-ness. She puts her character’s through a friggin’ meat grinder. You have zero well being as a character in a Kameron Hurley book. I have no idea what kind of narrative wizardry she is going to pull in book three because the end of two leaves no easy answers. That is a fantastic thing because it makes sure each book has its own distinct identity. Hurley busts her ass to put out the best writing in the genre and levels up with each book she writes. You are doing yourself a disservice if you are not reading her Worldbreaker Saga.

Favorite Short Story of 2015

lightbrigadeI don’t read nearly as much short fiction as I should and I am trying to fix that. Short fiction is a great place to find SF that is pushing the boundaries of the genre so I think everyone should at least dabble in the form, both reading and writing.

My favorite short story of the year is… Kameron Hurley again for “The Light Brigade.” I read it as part of Hurley’s Patreon service, but the story was also reprinted in Lightspeed. In between writing three novels this year, Hurley is putting out some more of that envelope pushing short fiction via Patreon. The Lightspeed link is right above, so instead of listening to me yammer on about it, just give it a click and enjoy the story for yourself.

Related, I enjoy the Patreon service in general as a way to directly support rad people.

Favorite Short Story Collection of 2015

xenowealth Xenowealth: A Collection by Tobias S Buckell

As part of my ongoing quest to read more short stories, I got in on Buckell’s kickstarter to create this collection of short stories set in the same world as the series that began with Crystal Rain. The stories are all collected in one place for the first time and includes two new stories published for the first time. Pepper is one of my favorite characters in sci fi so I knew I would enjoy this collection. The kickstarter is long over, but the book is available to preorder now if you want in on it.

Favorite Comic Books of 2015

I read comic books like some people watch Netflix, binge it online six months after everyone else watched it new. The two best things that I have found in Marvel’s giant digital library are…

Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl

msmarvelsquirrelgirlKamala Khan and Doreen Green are the most fun super heroines out there right now. Everything about their comics is a total delight it is only a matter of time before I give in and start buying them all in dead tree format because I can’t wait until they show up on Marvel Unlimited. G. Willow Wilson writing Ms. Marvel in particular is what drew me into giving comics a shot again after years of mostly ignoring the genre. The writing she puts into Kamala Khan has more nuance and care than half the novels I’ve read this year. Amid all the shenanigans of the Hugos this year, Ms. Marvel took one home and I was more stoked about that award than any other award in the genre this year. Even if you’re a comic newb or lowbie, you should be reading both of these titles.

So I’ve committed to my writing hommies, RSA Garcia and Drea James, to make a big push on In A Murphy Minute. That goal of getting a draft done by my birthday 35 days from now is still sorta reasonable. Tagging along with NaNoWriMo and making it NaFiTFuThiMo (National Finish The Fucking Thing Month) makes sense. Lots of the wordsmiths will be making a big push on their projects so why not us too?

Before I go dark on the blog for a while (cause I’ve been a regular posting fiend, eh? #sarcasm) I’m going to drop some book recommendations. I’ve hit a streak of very excellent books lately. Side note, as I sit here and tally them up, I realized it’s all SFF women authors since mid-summer(ish). So woo!

Anyways. Bite sized book recommendations incoming!

empireascendantEmpire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley

I have to start with this one. If you follow me on twitter, you can’t have missed me raving about Hurley’s work. Hurley is writing hands down, some of the best stuff out there. Period. End of sentence. I will throw money at anything she writes. Check out the round of up the big blog push she made for Empire‘s release. Specifically, this book is the second in the series that puts epic in epic fantasy. This of a sprawling plot that would make GRRM nod sagely but without a lot of the dated baggage that plagues epic fantasy. Battles, scheming and one of the most unique magic systems I’ve ever read. Hurley also dodges a lot of the Book Two Problems. You know the ones, book one is standalone-ish but book just just cuts off and the end of the page count, really being more of a single book in conjunction with book three. Yes, Empire ends with a lot of questions, it is a trilogy after all, but it is because the stakes are being raised constantly in this book. Hurley cranks up the consequences rather than filling out a page count and whoops, time to read book three. Seriously. Go get this book. If you haven’t read book one, go read The Mirror Empire first and then read this one. Read everything Hurley.

 

darkascensionDark Ascension by ML Brennan

Seems everyone is ascending lately. This is the fourth and final book in the Generation V series. This whole series is fun as hell and takes a cool spin on the vampire mythos. Even though the main character is a vampire, the series features more than the usual suspects for UF, which I appreciate a lot. It also is local. The book takes place in Rhode Island and I’ve been to most every spot mentioned in the books. In this fourth book, Fortitude Scott really comes into his own as part of the ruling clan of things that go bump in the shadows. He’s a lot more active as a character, which suits his evolution across the whole books when he started as extremely reluctant to even be a vampire. He’s now in a proper relationship with Suze, his kitsune counterpart. They are awesome together. I’d hang out with them.

 

undergroundUnderground by Kat Richardson

This Greywalker #3 which just goes to show how behind I am on this one because the series finished out at number 9 last year. Harper is a tough cookie of a PI and she can see the dead ghosts of Seattle. In this book, her techie friend Quentin asks if she can look into something that’s killing off the local homeless. She literally runs around under the city streets chasing down the beasties plaguing the city. I enjoy Quentin’s story now that he gets a chance to team up with Harper on this. One of the big selling points of Richardson’s books for me, is that I can pick up the next book in the series without reading cliff notes of all the books before hand. It’s tough to remind people what happened in previous books without an infodump. I always, always appreciate someone who can pull that off.

 

artificalnightAn Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire

Speaking of authors who are awesome at writing a series that you can pick up seamlessly between books, I read October Day #3. I discovered McGuire’s books when the InCryptid were just starting so I’m woefully behind on Toby. Ironic that I read this book so close to reading Underground because Toby and Harper are two sides of the same coin. Toby is an unofficial PI on the fairy side of the UF world rather than the human side. McGuire is one of the tops at being brutal to her characters and I feel bad for Toby because I know she gets put through the ringer six more times plus another three in the works. This book introduces May who is very rad and cranks things up with Tybalt who is bad ass.

 

breakoutBreakout by Ann Aguirre

Hey look! Another series book! Been reading a lot of these. This one is the third of the Dred Chronicles and I’m around 60% though this one. This book takes place in an unashamedly brutal world. All the characters are lifers of the worst sort on a space station where they are ignored and left to run amok and kill each other. These aren’t nice people but you’re rooting for them anyways. This is also one of a very few science fiction books where characters are allowed to romantic with each other. Aguirre has a wonderfully deft touch at plot twists that raise the stakes constantly. I highly recommend this whole series, starting with Perdition.

 

wakeofvulturesWake of Vultures by Lila Bowen

I’m waiting for this one to show up in the mail. (Amazon *still* hasn’t shipped the book even though I preordered it back in August and the book dropped last Tuesday. Thanks Amazon #sarcasm) Lila Bowen is the alter ego of Delilah Dawson who is super rad. I’ve read piles of her books and loved every one. She also taught that character building class I took over the summer. She’s influenced my writing a lot, and did before the class too. Honestly, I don’t even need to know what the book is about to buy a Dawson book. This one is Dawson doing Weird West, a genre mashup that I don’t see enough of so I’m eager for this one to show up on my door.

Novel Update

Posted: September 19, 2015 in Writing

I haven’t updated the progress In A Murphy Minute in a while because… well… the progress sucked.

Frankly I’ve been working on this one for way too long. I wrote somewhere around 35k for version one. Ish. That one I still wrote by hand so I could write at work which means it’s hard to get a good estimate. The two protags had zero chemistry. Which wasn’t good since the book was intended to be a bit of a romance at its core.

So for v2, I genderflopped the protag and restarted. When I write characters that are kinda like me, I tend to skip over too much. By making the protag as different from me as possible, it forces me to slow down and think about what I’m writing. The end result is better because I’m paying attention to the details better. So I changed up the characters but kept the skeleton of the plot the same.

But then then whole thing got bogged down under the plot holes. I pushed v2 out to 46k but 40k seems to be the point where I get hosed in the plot. I remember having problems with Amity in the 40-50k range too. I realized I hit the halfway point of the novel and hadn’t even seen the antagonist yet. That’s not very good. So I lost confidence with Murphy Minute.

Losing confidence in the novel like that is a big deal. For all that I can see the problems with Amity now, for all that I can see why it didn’t sell, I never once lost confidence in it. It’s been almost two years since I trunked Amity but I still have a plan in the back of my head to strip it down and rewrite it as a one PoV quest with a streamlined plot. So losing confidence in Murphy Minute is a very big deal.

I spent a long time deconstructing the plot of Murphy Minute and rebuilding it. I added in a second point of view and changed the plot a lot.

I’ve been hovering around the 40k mark again in v3 for a long time. Maybe 15k of that was copied straight from the old version because it still worked. Some of the old chapters were changed to the new point of view. Some things I just lifted wholesale with big scribbled notes to “Fix all the problems later.” It was starting to slow down a lot. I was starting to lose confidence in the novel again. Last week, I actually started outlining a different novel, about a Russian cosmonaut, with the intent of blasting through NaNoWriMo.

Yesterday, I opened up Murphy Minute to poke at the chapter that had been giving me so much trouble. I didn’t expect much. It was one of those chapters where I was rewriting the same events from version two but with a different point of view this time.

twitterpicI hit *the* moment of the book. Writing it from the different point of view, I added something that wasn’t there before and the whole thing took a pivot. I got excited to write this novel again. I churned out words like there was no tomorrow.

I hit 5.8k on the day. All new and fresh words.

More importantly, I’ve finally gone past the point which version two covered. I think part of what bogged me down so much was trying to marry the old and new parts together in something that came out coherent. I like the characters. I like the prose. I like the dialogue. I didn’t want to lose the good parts of the old version. So, for all that the parts I saved were good parts, I think it added an extra layer of difficulty to drafting the novel.

That’s not a problem anymore. Everything is new from here on out.

I’ve also decided I am going to finish Murphy Minute for my birthday, just like I did with Amity. 5k a week for 10 weeks will do it. We’ll see if my goals are still reasonable at Thanksgiving.

Donations for a Kidney

Posted: August 30, 2015 in Stuff

I almost exclusively keep this blog to writing related things. Beyond the glimpse of my twitter feed on the left hand column, I keep this focused on writing. Twitter is for all the other stuff. I barely use Facecrack, but I guess that counts too.

I am going to break with tradition for something important.

My sister is looking to become a living organ donor. She has two healthy kidneys. My wife’s best friend has renal failure and zero functional kidneys.

Insurance will pay for all the compatibility testing and the surgery itself. It does not, however, pay for the logistics.

My sister lives in Oregon. My wife’s best friend lives in Rhode Island. Bit of a two thousand mile problem.

She has set up a GoFundMe page to raise the travel costs for multiple trips to Rhode Island. She has passed the initial surveys and has a compatible blood type. The remaining tests and screenings need to be done here in Rhode Island though. My sister is a doctor and knows what she’s getting into. If everything is kosher and the transplant can go through, my sister is healthy enough that it will not adversely affect her life while it will save a life.

Think about tossing a couple bucks into the hat if you can.

2 Plane Tickets: 1 Kidney

Character Questions

Posted: August 23, 2015 in Writing
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When I come up with the first inkling of a story, it tends to be a scene with a character in the midst of some action or in a certain location. It’s very “scenario first, plot later” which that alone sums up a lot of my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. It’s much more conducive to Dungeons and Dragons than novels, but meh. Plot comes from characters and you need to know your characters before you can formulate a proper plot. At least that’s how I operate.

Recently, I took a LitReactor.com class run by Delilah S. Dawson (who is awesome) and it was all about turbocharging your characters in order to make your novel stronger. I got a lot out of it.

But there was one thing I wanted to share with the class but I only just found it again a couple days ago.

In college, I went to film school. It’s a different medium than writing novels, so it inherently has different strengths and weaknesses, but many aspects of good storytelling are universal. When I got to my last semester of college, I finished my thesis and all the required classes for my major. All I had to do was fill out my credit total. One of the classes I took was an acting class. I was upfront with the prof that I wanted to know something about the other side of the camera, not really ever expecting to be a proper actor. He was cool with that. And also thoroughly freaked out because he ran theater classes for my parents in the general vicinity of 1979 and I was the first second generation student.

Acting is all character.

Prof Patterson had one assignment which gave you a laundry list of questions for you to get in your character’s head. That’s no different than writing a novel, at least the way I write. When I was moving into my house and cleaning out a boxes of old college crap a few years ago, I found the assignment and I typed up the questions into a word doc. It got lost in the shuffle when I got this new computer, a few months ago but I found it again. It has been useful for me and I’m sharing it in case that’s the sort of thing that’s useful to you. Not every question really works for every situation. Acting 201 didn’t really worry about science fiction or fantasy, but it works for the most part.

Questions below the jump.

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